More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Postnatal depression 'is grieving for your old self'
by LYNDSAY MOSS, The Sctosman
Fri 30 Nov 2007

The loss of identity a woman feels after having a baby is so strong it can feel like they have suffered a bereavement, researchers say.

Losing their financial independence, work status and freedom has such as profound effect that they can find themselves grieving for their former self, a conference in Falkirk is due to hear tomorrow.

Melanie Clarke and Dr Cynthia McVey, from Glasgow Caledonian University, said that the pressures of modern life had led to rising rates of postnatal depression as women felt they had to "have it all".

It is estimated between 10 and 28 per cent of women will suffer postnatal depression. The British Psychological Society conference will hear that rates of postnatal depression could be reduced if this "bereavement" for the loss of their old self was considered a natural reaction which most will experience.

Mrs Clarke and Dr McVey interviewed new mothers with a history of postnatal depression. The women reported a feeling of being "lost". They had problems because of unrealistic expectations about childbirth and motherhood and because they had lost sight of the person they used to be.

Mrs Clarke said this led women to start grieving for their previous identity. "There are so many losses you experience when you have a child - the loss of your former freedom, your financial independence and so many other things which you had before.

"But the birth of a child is never framed as a loss. It is all roses around the door and this feeling that everyone should be happy," Mrs Clarke said. "This is especially so these days where women are under pressure to have great careers and a great family as well. They feel they have to have it all.

"But many women go through a grieving process over the loss of their former self when they have a child."

The researcher said there was a lot of pressure on new mothers to accept the losses, but this meant a grieving process - akin to normal bereavement - was necessary. She said that if post-natal depression was treated as a grieving process, women would have hope that they would emerge from the other side, as with any other bereavement.

Belinda Phipps, of the National Childbirth Trust, said, "There is a lot of talk about getting back to your normal self, but when you go from being a daughter, sister, wife and add the identity of mother, it's is an irreversible condition."

Feeling tearful and depressed after having a baby is common among many new mothers.

It can range from the less severe "baby blues" - lasting just a few days after birth - to postnatal depression which can take months to develop.

In the most serious but rare cases, postnatal psychosis may develop, leading to irrational behaviour, and confusion and suicidal thoughts. Experts say that women should seek treatment early if they think they have depression, and there are many treatments which can help stop postnatal depression.

This can include medication and counselling, while taking regular exercise is also thought to help.

But women are warned it can take a long time to fully recover from the condition.

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Interesting hypothesis but it seems a bit implausible to me.

How would this theory account for the development of postpartum depression in women who already have older children?
i was a bit skeptical at the title of this article. it might be true for some women but i don't think for all. it certainly wasn't a factor in my post-natal depression. a traumatic birthing experience can also lead to depression. besides that there are many other factors surrounding a birth that can lead to depression (lack of a support structure, unwanted pregnancy, finances, etc. etc.)

Feeling tearful and depressed after having a baby is common among many new mothers.

It can range from the less severe "baby blues" - lasting just a few days after birth - to postnatal depression which can take months to develop.

the baby blues are indeed common and that is purely due to hormone levels changing radically from being pregnant to not being pregnant. also in a sense it is quite a shock to go from having this little being you carry around inside of you to suddenly being empty inside. i doubt women are able to escape those tearful couple of days that occur on day 3 or 4 after birth.


I noticed when I had my daughter 19 months ago that the nurses on the maternity ward are extremely vigilant for signs of post natal depression and they asked me numerous times if I was having any blue feelings, and I heard them ask the new mother in the bed beside me as well. They also include booklets, and phone numbers to call if you experience what may be symptoms of post natal depression once you are discharged from the hospital.

This shows me that as a society we are becoming more open to the idea that this can be a very common occurance after childbirth which can be from both both physiological and emotional factors. I can't say that I think that it may be due to loss of identity... I would think it has more to do with radical hormone shifts in a matter of days but every women is different. If the new mother hasn't prepared herself emotionally for the changes one is to expect when becoming a new mother, I am sure this could possibly cause a state of bereavement, that their life will never be the way it was. I can't say that I felt this way though.
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